Exodus of Nurses at Northside Medical Center Threatens Quality Care

Nov 05, 2013, 13:05 ET from Ohio Nurses Association

Nurses Decry Epidemic of Resignations, Layoffs Since For-Profit CHS Took Over

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio, Nov. 5, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The exodus of nurses through resignations and layoffs at Northside Medical Center could undermine the hospital's award-winning patient care.

Under the management of the for-profit Community Health Systems Inc., nearly 60 nurses—including half of the nurses in surgical intensive care—have left the hospital, which has been recognized nationally for its outstanding patient care.

"I felt that there was no voice and no professional growth for me," said nurse Christy Crown, who left Northside after a year. "I believe 100 percent in my profession as a nurse. I just wanted to find a place that appreciates that and supports my growth as a nurse."

Crown said the failure to fill nursing staff positions has stretched the nursing staff and could make it difficult to maintain the quality care for which the hospital is known.

"As professionals, we want to be certain we can respond in a timely manner to our patients' needs, like answering a call light, making dressing changes or changing an IV," Crown said.

The nurses who have resigned from Northside since September amount to approximately 10 percent of the nursing staff. Citing the need for "efficiencies," management last week announced that more than 50 additional full-time positions at Northside are being eliminated, including four in nursing. Other positions slated for elimination are in respiratory, imaging and laboratory.

The new round of cutbacks comes after the reduction of approximately 70 full-time positions that has occurred since CHS took control of the hospital two years ago.

Nurses at Northside have been working without a contract for more than 16 months. Nurses at Northside remain concerned that terms proposed by hospital management and CHS have the potential to undermine their ability to speak out in the future about issues such as safety and patient care.  Nurses currently have the contractual right to bring up such concerns.

Nurses are also concerned about CHS proposals that could lead to a system of  "nurse rationing" by sending nurses home when patient admissions fluctuate. 

"If CHS' proposals for nurse rationing, quashing nurses voice, and eliminating the career salary scale are adopted, it will make if very difficult to attract and recruit nurses," said  Eric Williams. president of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association.

In September, Northside nurses staged a successful one-day unfair labor practice strike that highlighted the issues that divide the two sides. Since the strike, nurses, elected officials and others have continued to call for management to resume negotiations and resolve issues that could affect quality patient care.

"We are very confident these issues can be resolved," said Kelly Trautner, deputy executive office for the Ohio Nurses Association, the bargaining agent for Northside nurses. "But the only way that can happen is to get back to the table."

SOURCE Ohio Nurses Association